LANSING, Michigan — Michigan lawmakers on Thursday finalized legislation that would make more criminal offenders eligible for a second chance by raising the age limit to qualify for the state's diversion program for younger criminals.
The Holmes Youthful Trainee Act lets judges issue a sentence that does not result in a conviction if the offender was 17 to 20 years old at the time of the crime and completes probation, jail or prison without incident. Bills sent to Gov. Rick Snyder would expand eligibility to those who commit a crime when they are 21, 22 or 23.
"It's a good thing for young people that make a mistake," said Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Rick Jones, a Grand Ledge Republican and former sheriff.
The House-sponsored legislation, approved on either 38-0 or 37-1 votes in the Senate, would require judges to revoke an offender's trainee status if he or she commits certain felonies. The law currently gives judges discretion on whether to do so.
The bills would reduce the maximum amount that a young offender participating in the program could spend in prison, from three to two years. An offender also could not be sent to prison for committing certain felony offenses such as drug, home invasion and larceny crimes. They instead would receive jail time or probation.
Another change would let judges sentence younger offenders to incarceration and probation instead of being limited to one or the other. Younger offenders who commit serious offenses such as murder and drunken driving are not eligible to be diverted into the program.
In 2013, about 5,700, or 13 percent, of Michigan's 43,700 prisoners were 21 to 23 years old. The state would see unspecified savings depending on how many in the future instead are sentenced to county jails or probation, according to the nonpartisan Senate Fiscal Agency.
House Bills 4069, 4135 and 4169: http://1.usa.gov/1P4mrA3
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